Monday, 10 July 2017

The Last Queen of Dramaturgy: Jemina Levick @ Edfringe 2017

From Uganda to Dundee – The Last Queen of Scotland confronts Idi Amin

This August festival audiences will be treated to the world premiere of The Last Queen of Scotland - a Stellar Quines production co-commissioned and supported by National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep. 

The new play by Jaimini Jethwa traces her journey from Uganda to Dundee charting the personal fallout from events of August 1972 when the notorious dictator Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of all Asian Ugandans from the country. 

The Last Queen of Scotland 

Venue: Iron Belly, Underbelly Venue 61

Dates and Time: 3 – 26 August 6:50PM (60mins) no perf 9 & 16 Aug

Tickets: £6.50 previews (3, 4 August) £12(11) Off peak £14(£13) Peak

Age 12+ 

Box Office: Call 0844 545 8252 or buy online at 

What was the inspiration for this performance? 

It’s inspired by Jaimini’s experience of the Ugandan Asian expulsion, and her move to Dundee as an immigrant in the early 70’s.  About how she chose to explore her past in order to be in control of her future – a story of where she came from and where she now belongs.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Absolutely.  It’s a live medium, so it’s currency is inherently in the present.  There’s a visceral experience that comes with a live performer sharing a story with an audience, and it’s that shared experience, the exchange, that encourages us to debate and discuss what we just saw.  There’s less separation (no screen!) between the stage and the public, so that discussion and the subject feels more available.  

How did you go about gathering the team for it? 

I was keen to work with Anna Orton (designer) and knew she had recently graduated from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.  She had worked as a scenic artist at Dundee Rep when I was AD there, and I wanted someone who understood the Dundee landscape.  She’s also very talented.  

Which helps. 

Ian Dow (Lighting Designer) I had worked with previously in Dundee also. 

And Patricia Panther (music and sound) was actually a recommendation from Cora Bissett.  

Originally I wanted to work with someone from a refugee background, but when talking to Cora she didn’t hesitate to mention Patricia’s name.  She has an incredible singing voice, so I was keen to find a place for her to perform live in the show. 

How did you become interested in making performance? 

My mum was an actress when I was small, and although I was always mortified at her performing, I was hooked from an early age.  It just felt so exciting being in the same room as people who were so invested in telling me a story. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

This is Jaimini’s first play, and we’ve been on a fairly unusual path in terms of its conception to production.  Her background is in film making but not in theatre, so we’ve spent about four years working together, alongside George Aza-Selinger (former Literary Manager at the National Theatre of Scotland), to get to this point.  It wasn’t a formal commission in the traditional sense, we didn’t say, “oh you’re an interesting playwright, go away and write us a play”.  

Jaimini had an idea about what she wanted to write about, we had to help her find the best way to do it; the structure, style and so on.  It was only after working together for three years that she was formally co-commissioned by Dundee Rep and the NTS. 

Once we get in the rehearsal room, I guess as with any new play, there will be a lot of time spent working out how the text works - what works, what doesn’t, what goes, what stays.  Also, because this is so specifically Jaimini’s story, we need to make sure it fits in Rehanna’s mouth (so to speak) so it begins to belong to her too.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

It’s an untold Scottish story, which is something I’m always keen to give an audience access to - much like our recent co-production of The 306: Day.  At Stellar Quines we want to make work that inspires women and girls, and I think that this does that.  It’s about knowing who you are, and belonging and defeating the powers that be from controlling you. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope they’ll feel energized, and more informed about an event in history that they didn’t know much about.  I also hope people will open their minds in terms of immigration, and what journey people undergo to get to their new ‘home’ and how, even after a lifetime of integration, it might not necessarily be clear to you where you truly belong. 

It’s a very human story, told in a Dundee voice with great music, more than anything, it should be enjoyable.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

The integration of music is a key element for me, as music can transport you faster and more instinctively than any other medium.  And as with any production, the design will work to help the audience go on the journey with us, from Dundee to Uganda and back.  I also think that seeing two performers, both strong young women from Scottish/Nigerian and Scottish/Pakistani descent, is a real signaler of how diverse Scotland has become, and how central diversity is to making this nation a better and more interesting place.

Directed by Jemima Levick and performed by exciting young actress Rehanna MacDonald to a live soundtrack [Patricia Panther, Glasgow Girls] The Last Queen of Scotland is a powerful polemic rewriting Amin's relationship with Scotland.

Jaimini Jethwa

Jaimini is a playwright and independent film maker with specialist skills in working with vulnerable young people and adults. 

In March 2014 Jaimini travelled to Uganda to explore presenting The
Last Queen of Scotland at National Theatre Kampala as part of ‘Banta in Uganda’ – in a research and development project supported through Creative Scotland’s International fund. Jaimini is currently based at Abertay University, Dundee and has previously worked on drama production for BBC short Films, Scottish Screen, BBC Screen writing Migrations, Lemuria Music Events Film-Maker, Diversity Films, GMAC. Jaimini was born in Uganda but was expelled in August 1972 with her family by Idi Amin. The family headed to Britain and ended up living in Dundee. 

Jemima Levick

Jemima was appointed Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Stellar Quines in May 2016. Prior to that, she served as Artistic Director and as Associate Director at Dundee Rep Theatre for seven years. She trained at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and also on a Scottish Arts Council Director Traineeship.

She has won and been nominated for a number of awards and directed more than 18 productions at the Rep, including Great Expectations, The Glass Menagerie, Time and the Conways, The Tempest, The Elephant Man and Beauty and the Beast.

As a freelance director and producer she has worked with a number of companies, including the Royal Lyceum Theatre, The National Theatre of Scotland, Perissology Theatre Productions, Borderline, Grid Iron Theatre Company, The Traverse and Paines Plough.

Stellar Quines

Stellar Quines is an award winning Scottish theatre company that celebrates the value and diversity of women and girls by making brilliant theatre, provoking change, nurturing artists and empowering participation. 

The company achieves this through a year-round programme designed to excite and inspire the audiences and artists we work with that includes producing and touring world class performance, commissioning research, championing campaigns and delivering activities to support artist development and community engagement.  

Made in Scotland

Made in Scotland is a curated showcase of high quality performance from Scotland at the world’s biggest arts festival, made possible by support from the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. It is a partnership between the Festival Fringe Society, the Federation of Scottish Theatre (FST) Scottish Music Centre and Creative Scotland.  

The National Theatre of Scotland

The National Theatre of Scotland is dedicated to playing the great stages, arts centres, village halls, schools and site-specific locations of Scotland, the UK and internationally. As well as creating ground-breaking productions and working with the most talented theatre-makers, the National Theatre of Scotland produces significant community engagement projects, innovates digitally and works constantly to develop new talent. Central to this is finding pioneering ways to reach current and new audiences and to encourage people’s full participation in the Company’s work. With no performance building of its own, the Company works with existing and new venues and companies to create and tour theatre of the highest quality. Founded in 2006, the Company, in its short life, has become a globally significant theatrical player, with an extensive repertoire of award-winning work. The National Theatre of Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government.

Told through the street sounds of Dundonian dialect The Last Queen of Scotland is a homage to Jaimini’s city “the D”. From 'messy' parties in Dundee's housing schemes to the baking heat of Kampala, Jaimini Jethwa's personal journey of self discovery sheds light on a unique period of untold history. Sharing the story of a community in exile, The Last Queen of Scotland sees Jaimini retrace her parents steps following their expulsion from Uganda and the decisions that have made Dundee her home. On her return to her homeland she finds more questions than answers as she confronts the past and imagines the life she should have had. 

The Last Queen of Scotland sees award winning company Stellar Quines return to the Fringe following the success of The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy (2015).  The company also received rave reviews for The View from Castle Rock (2016) an Edinburgh Festivals Expo Funded Co-production with Edinburgh International Book Festival. The Last Queen of Scotland is Artistic Director Jemina Levick's first festival production for Stellar Quines and is part of the 2017 Made in Scotland Showcase.

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